Riding small waves is easy, but ripping them is much harder. Ninety percent of the time the surf is head high or less. This article will help you to make the most out of less. Your attitude or frame of mind is the tool you will use the most. It will determine whether you will have fun or not.
Before you hit the water sit on the beach and watch the surf, tell yourself you will have fun. Visualize yourself riding the waves you are watching, and ask yourself what can I do with these waves. When you hit the water, push yourself, this is the time to really go for it. Having the right equipment will always increase your performance. Every rider has different equipment needs, so I will outline what has worked best for me.
The most important piece of equipment is my board. I'll design a board that is lightweight and stiff, lightweight for extra sensitivity, and stiffness will give you more speed. I also like a little longer and wider board to help carry me over weak sections.
Wetsuits will keep you warm, but they make you stiff and add extra weight. When choosing a full suit, I like thin neoprime with tape seams. By getting taped seams, I can use 1.5 or 2 millimeter neoprime instead of three. This will decrease weight and improve flexibility. For lesser suits the same rules apply. Choose the lightest suit that gives you the most maneuverability.
Catching small waves may require a little more paddling power. Your fins are the first line of defense against sitting in the line-up like a buoy. Comfort is foremost, never use fins that don't fit properly, they will only give you blisters or cramps. Once you find some fins that fit well choose the pair that are light and have the most surface area. Although I don't recommend diving style fins, for fin leashes I use nylon string, or you can choose from a variety of other styles, get the least bulky pair. As for leashes there are two basic types, hand or foot. I don't use leashes unless it is very hard to retrieve my board. Because they add extra drag and they get in the way. If you do use one, hand leashes don't drag as much and, foot leashes are good for drop knee riding.
Paddling gloves have a few advantages. Obviously, they will increase your paddling power making it easier to catch waves. They also help when doing hand drag belly-spinners. Some gloves will give you extra grip, especially in colder water. They will also keep your hands warm. To get the most out of the small waves, you need to plug into the waves power zones. This will enable you to obtain enough speed to pull off your maneuvers. Speed is essential to complete any maneuver.
I would like to describe a few maneuvers you might have some trouble with. Aerials are the hardest maneuver because of the absence of power. You need a wave that bowls, and has a predictable section. Concentrate on doing this one maneuver because you will need all the speed you can muster. Gain as much speed as you can and aim for the lip. Hit the lip just as it is pitching out this will project you out of the wave. El rollos can be done on any wave with a pitching lip. The idea is to plug into the power of the wave. The biggest problem with completing a good el rollo is not getting the wave to pitch you over. When you go to do an el rollo plan on puncturing into the throwing lip. As you enter this, the first stage prepare to extend your arms and board at the same moment you penetrate the lip. Stage two, turn with the wave. Using your arms and body to help complete the el rollo you might have to use a lot of body torque, if the wave is lacking enough energy to throw you over.
In real mushy waves, this maneuver becomes the el floppo. Because there is no lip and no power. The el floppo is totally manual, meaning the wave will not have enough power to help with your maneuver. I save this maneuver for severe contest groveling, but it must be practiced if you want to perfect it. Look for a section and aim for what would be the lip. Try to hit the edge of the white water. Extend your arms and board and manually roll your board off the white water and around your body. It takes a lot of practice to make this look fluid.
Cutbacks are the same as in big surf, but you have to make sure you have enough speed to make the rest of the wave. Avoid making choppy turns that will cause you to lose speed. Cutback spinners. Speed and fluidity are the backbone of this maneuver. Going into the cutback maintain as much speed as possible. About mid-way through the cutback, center your body and use your head and legs as counter weights. Put the board flat on the water and spin, if you are having trouble completing your spin use your hand to initiate the spin. This hand drag reverse is done by sticking your hand in the water creating drag. The nose of your board will want to spin towards the side you put your hand in the water. For even more help try moving your other hand to the edge of the nose, and turn your board in the direction of the spin.
The floater belly spinner. This variation of the forward spinner let you pull off a maneuver on a close out section. As you approach a section stay high on the waves face, just before the section is going to break turn to the top of the lip. Try and slide your spin letting the lip pitch under you. Finish the spin on the curtain or white water. Landings are the hardest part. You either land in the flats after getting pitched out by the lip or you have to punch through the white water. The best way to deal with the white water is upon completing your spin keep your board under you and aim straight in, to avoid being caught behind the white water.
The reverse spinner. Is virtually the same as a forwards spin, but you spin the other way. To add a radical twist to this maneuver, use the lip to get extra speed. There are two ways to do this. The first is, instead of doing a reverse on the shoulder, do a hard bottom turn to project you to the top of the wave. At the top of the wave, start your spin by simultaneously putting your board flat on the water and using the centrifugal force of throwing your legs up over the top of the wave. Now you are vertical and upside down. To avoid tail pearling use your hands and upper body weight. Your hands to move your board so the nose is just under your chin. Upper body weight to push the nose into the waves face this will result in keeping the tail up out of the water. The other is to use on coming white water and rebound off of it. As you are going down the line and see the wave breaking towards you, set up a bottom turn. As you come out of the bottom turn aim straight towards the top of the wave and the on coming white water. The idea is to hit the white water mid-way through your spin. As you engage into the power of the white water it will rebound you, sending you the other way. So by hitting the white water mid-way through your spin the rebound effect will help you complete the spin. This maneuver can look real flashy because of the speed you create by rebounding. You can do this maneuver by dragging you hand, but you do not obtain as much speed and it does not look as fluid Style and flow are what separate the good ride from a great one. Everybody has there own unique style. Each is unique to the rider.
To make small wave maneuvers look good it must be executed smoothly. For you to pull off smooth maneuvers, you must flow with the wave. By doing turns and maneuvers that flow with the power of the wave you will obtain the most speed, the key component to any maneuver. The idea is to go from one maneuver to the next without loosing speed. To do this each maneuver must be completed cleanly without any choppy turns. The way I find easiest is to virtually combined maneuvers together. Doing one maneuver to set up another, like a bottom turn into an el rollo. After a while you will orchestrate four or five maneuvers to harmonized with each other. So to rip small surf you must combine speed with fluidity, the right equipment and a good aditude. Put it all together with lots of practious and you will be ripping small